Biliary lipids, bile acid metabolism, gallbladder motor function and small intestinal transit during ingestion of a sub-fifty oral contraceptive

J Hepatol. 1987 Jun;4(3):318-26. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(87)80540-8.


The risk of developing gallstone disease while using low dose oral contraceptives (OC) has been incompletely explored in man. In this study, biliary lipid composition, bile acid conjugation, primary bile acid kinetics, gallbladder storage and emptying by quantitative cholescintigraphy, and small intestinal transit by breath hydrogen analysis are reported in a group of non-obese healthy young women, both after 3-5 months OC, using 30 micrograms ethinyl oestradiol daily, and during an adjacent control period. OC use was associated with a significant rise of biliary cholesterol saturation in gallbladder bile. Total bile acid pool size did not change; however, mean cholic acid pool size was 36% greater than in the control period (P less than 0.001), due to its enhanced synthesis rate, at the expense of chenodeoxycholic acid and deoxycholic acid pool sizes (P less than 0.05). A rise in taurine conjugation of biliary bile acids was apparent in all subjects (P less than 0.0001). Gallbladder motor function was not influenced by ingestion of OC, whereas only a minor retardation of small intestinal transit was found. The findings show an effect of this sub-50 OC on biliary lipid composition and cholesterol saturation that is comparable with that of conventional OC. The predominance of more hydrophilic bile acid conjugates during oral contraception is in keeping with a hepatic effect of this preparation on bile acid metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bile / analysis
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Cholelithiasis / chemically induced*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Synthetic / adverse effects*
  • Desogestrel
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Gallbladder / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Lactulose
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Norpregnenes / adverse effects*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Synthetic
  • Lipids
  • Norpregnenes
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Lactulose
  • Desogestrel